Yesterday (August 15th) marked the 69th anniversary of Indian independence. Characterized by parades, fireworks and the flying tricolor illuminated by the blazing Indian sunshine, August 15th is a day of boisterous revelry throughout the Deccan.
In his famous ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech, Jawaharlal Nehru declared that ‘at the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awaken to life and freedom’. Unsurprisingly, Nehru was blind to the events unfolding before his eyes.
India did not awake to life and freedom. Millions of innocent men, women and children awoke to a bloodbath, witnessing their loved ones savagely slaughtered by Hindus and Muslims. In the name of God, a innocent Hindu girl was gang-raped by a bloodthirsty Muslim mob. In the name of God, a Muslim boy was decapitated in front of his mother by a gang of vengeful Hindus. In the name of God, unassuming Sikh families helplessly watched their ancestral homes being burned to the ground. In the name of God, the soil of Punjab, Rajasthan, Kashmir and Sindh were drenched with the crimson blood of the farmers who plowed and toiled on that same soil.
Unfortunately, the carnage has yet to cease. A few month ago, in Dadri, located in the North Indian province of Uttar Pradesh, a Muslim man was killed by a gang of Hindus for the ‘crime’ of purchasing beef. In the South Indian province of Kerala, a professor had his hand chopped off by Muslim fundamentalists for allegations of blasphemy against Islam. An anti-superstition activist from Pune was fatally shot for his advocacy. Another social activist, from Delhi, was forced to leave for Europe at the risk of arrest in accordance to some colonial-era penal measure. His sole crime was disproving a miracle occurring in a Bombay Catholic parish by pointing to bad plumbing.
Kashmiri Pundits risk losing their lives by residing in their native region. Hindu families from Kairana, in Uttar Pradesh, have also been coerced to depart from their homeland.
In the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination by her two Sikh bodyguards, Sikh families in Delhi and the surrounding regions endured the wrath of their fellow countrymen. Meager protections were granted from the Indian central administration. When anti-Muslim mob violence erupted in Gujarat, Modi’s government were also seemingly blind to the bloodbath.
In the midst of unjustifiable gore, instigated in the name of dogma and theology, India continues to pride itself as the hotbed of the world’s religions.
Incredible India. That’s the motto the Indian Ministry of Tourism has propagated to lure bored and naive Western visitors into the idyllic Shangri-La that is, allegedly, India. By spoiling these foreigners with the same top-notch amenities and accommodations denied to their own countrymen, the Indian tourism industry attempts to keep its guests ignorant of the deplorable poverty and eternal butchery occurring through the windows of their Oberoi hotel suites.
But yes, India is indeed the abode of spiritual truths. India are a land of countless Deepak Chopras enticing naive souls with their ‘philosophical insight’. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Mata Amritanandamayi have promoted brands marketable enough to evoke the envy of Apple and Microsoft. Catholic bishops in Kerala have imparted their ‘wisdom’ to encourage ‘bigger families’ in a land of over one billion. And of course, we could never forget Zakir Naik, one of the most prominent Muslims speakers in India, who has yet to condemn ISIS and Osama Bin Laden.
On August 15th, 1947, India did not awake to life. Tell that to the victims of the religious massacres which occurred during that time. India did not awake to freedom. How could one forget the State of Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi (Nehru’s daughter, no less!) where the basic civic rights of Indians were suspended, habeas corpus was denied to prisoners, the free press was undermined, and poor, rural-dwelling women were forced to undergo sterilization? How can India be free when a colonial-era penal code continues to be enacted in the country? How can India be free when its own citizens fear death for their religious label?
August 15th is the day India was liberated from British imperialism. Whoop-dee-do. Let’s not be reminded that Great Britain unexpectedly received a massive influx of South Asian immigrant families during the late 1940’s and early 1950’s!
August 15th should be a reminder of the brutality and savagery continuously spearheaded in the name of God. I hate to be a Debbie-Downer but August 15th should be a day of mourning, not a day of good cheer. The events of August 15th should motivate all of us, Indian or non-Indian, to discard the primitive beliefs and polarizing identity policies which have killed so many innocent people.